Do You Really Know How To Floss?

Let's face it - flossing is a little tricky. Are you doing it properly? Are you doing it often enough? Are you using the correct flossing instrument? Are you getting sick of your dental hygienist lecturing you at every dental appointment about flossing? The question of the day is do you really know how to floss? I personally always love when I get my teeth cleaned and the hygienist finishes off my cleaning with a good thorough flossing. They are able to get in to all the areas that it seems like I cannot. How am I supposed to fit my hands ALL the way back there??!? I wanted to simply the technique for you at home - so it doesn't seem so daunting.

Step 1: Grab some floss, the ADA recommends about 18 inches. Really just grab enough to be able to use some clean floss after each tooth.

Step 2: Get the floss between the teeth and all the way up to the gum line gently and "wrap" your tooth with the floss. Use an up and down and back and forth (or zig-zag) motion to get all those surfaces.

Step 3: Once all your teeth are squeaky clean, rinse your mouth very well - you did just clean out a lot of bacteria from under your gums.

Easy enough, right? If you are a type of person that struggles with standard floss, there are lots of other options out there to help you achieve your flossing goals and make your hygienist beam with pride at your next cleaning. I she has even offered you a handheld flosser at one of your appointments. Take her up on it next time. The technique with these is similar but it gives you the luxury of not having to struggle getting around those back teeth and hard to reach places. All the major dental companies have created water flossers or air flossers as well. The water and air flossers are easy to use, gentle and incredibly effective. Have a lot of bridge or crown work, maybe even braces? We have floss for that too! Special floss to get around those wires to keep your gums healthy! Remember, flossing is the most effective way to keep plaque out of your gum tissue and off of your teeth in between your dental cleanings. Research your options and start flossing - this way if someone should ask do you really know how to floss? You can say, YES and I have the gums to prove it!

Fluoride, nature’s cavity fighter

Have you ever sat and wondered to yourself, "What is fluoride anyway and why is my dentist all about it?" - Well, I am here to fill you in. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in all water sources without additional fluoridation. Depending on the region you live in the level of naturally occurring fluoride may be different. The mineral itself is renowned for strengthening teeth and helping prevent tooth decay. Fluoride, nature's cavity fighter! According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) 92% of adults between 20-64 have had decay in their permanent teeth and 26% of adults the same age have untreated decay. Now, don't get me wrong - these statistics are not simply because people chose not to have fluoride treatments at their dental cleanings or refuse to drink fluoridated water, there are many reasons as to why tooth decay occurs. Fluoride is simply an overlooked good.

Fluoride works by fighting acids in our food and drinks that attack teeth and cause decay. Think of fluoride as D vitamins in your milk - or juice with added calcium, it is simply an added benefit to help protect your very precious smile. The American Dental Association suggests that "for children younger than 3 years, start brushing their teeth as soon as they start to appear in the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush your children's teeth twice a day (morning and night) or as directed by your dentist or physician. For children 3 to 6 years of age, use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and brush teeth twice a day. Always supervise your child's brushing to make sure they use the right amount of toothpaste and try and get your child to spit out most of the toothpaste." The ADA also states that "if you have a good chance of getting cavities, your dentist can apply fluoride to your teeth during your dental visit. Your dentist might also tell you to use a special fluoride rinse, paste or gel at home." The ADA is absolutely correct in this, and I practice it here in my office. Why not take advantage of fluoride, nature's cavity fighter. For more information about fluoride or fluoridation head straight to www.mouthhealthy.org/fluoride

Dental Phobia

Did you know that it is estimated that as many as 58% of US adults have some degree of dental phobia? I ask myself constantly where this anxiety comes from - is it from a past dental experience, negative dental propaganda or something much larger. I tend to ask my anxious patients what exactly about dentists or dental offices make them uncomfortable. In older generations I cannot tell you how many times and stories I have heard about their dental phobia stemming from when they were children. Dental insurance was not always (and is still not always) a benefit available to most people and chances are even if you had it, your dentist did not accept it. Most families could not afford regular dental care and would therefore wait until there was a dental emergency before going to see good ol' Dr. Rootcanal (kidding, of course). Prolonging these visits to when someone in the family was in discomfort only made the situation worse. On occasion, a families could not afford the anesthesia used to avoid discomfort, this made for and extremely uncomfortable procedure. If something got too uncomfortable or if the patient would not hold still, some dentists would use a papoose board to strap the patient down. In these unfortunate situations, the patient, usually a child, had no control. Dentists were/are portrayed as cold, calculated and uncaring for shock value in movies and sadly dental instruments were used as torture devices by some very bad people in history. Luckily - our industry has changed, a lot.

The most reliable way to help a patient deal with dental phobia, is to give control back to the patient. We do not confine patient to their dental chair or the operatory. I highly recommend you allow me to treat you in the operatory, but if you need to stop and get up and move around, take a break - you are allowed to do so as often as you may need. Waiting rooms and operatories are designed with a more welcoming, comfortable feel. In-office amenities such as noise cancelling headphones, televisions, and music are available for your comfort. These things will help keep your mind off of the dental room As with most phobias, there are many way to conquer your fear; solutions such as meditation, guided imagery, acupuncture are in my opinion among the more extreme and may not be the answer for everyone. If those aren't for you - gentle sedation such as nitrous oxide (N20 or laughing gas), moderate sedation such as oral medications and total sedation using IV medications (take me to dream land) are always options. Rest assured, we can and will do our best to make you comfortable no matter the degree of dental phobia you may have experienced, and most importantly I will always take the time to listen and provide recommendations.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is the practice of swishing oil (coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil is recommended) for 20 minutes each day. The benefits are said to help prevent gingivitis and plaque buildup - some also say it can help prevent cavities among other health benefits. It is really difficult for someone in my profession to try a different oral health technique to really get a grasp on the dental benefits of it. I say this because anyone in the dentistry profession has a tendency to get regular cleanings and check up's and often times more than every six months. As the "oil pulling" trend is becoming more popular, patients are asking me how I feel about it - so I did it. My oil pulling experience was interesting. Swishing coconut oil for a solid 20 minutes each day was trying on me, my jaw got tired and it seemed like 20 minutes lasted a lifetime. I did read that there are other, shorter methods to do this - but I wanted to try it as authentically as possible.

I did notice right away that my breath felt like it was fresher. I am not able to attest whether it was the refreshing coconut oil or if it really genuinely cleaned bacteria and plaque off of my gums and teeth. After a few days of this painstaking task, I did notice less tissue breakage when I flossed meaning my gums were a little healthier. I will have to have one of my hygienists tell me how well I did at my next hygiene cleaning where they can check under the gum line and take my periodontal readings. All in all, I can see how oil pulling has some benefits. I would not recommend oil pulling as a substitute for regular hygiene appointments and dental check up's and I certainly do not suggest skipping brushing or flossing regularly either, but as an addition to your current healthy dental hygiene habits, I say go for it. Let me know if you have tried it and how you feel about it.

How do you choose the best dentist for you?

Finding someone who your trust to take care of your smile can be a daunting task, after all - it is only your smile. Doctors in general tend to abide by a strict code of principals, ethics and professional conduct; however that is not all that makes a good match. How do you choose the best dentist for you? The majority of the new patients that come to my office for the first time come on the personal recommendation from a trusted colleague, friend or family member. Asking a friend or family member is typically the go to when searching for something new and different. The American Dental Association has done everything they can to make alternate searching fast and easy. All American Dental Association Members have promised to follow the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct, which consists of five ethical principles: 1. Self-Governance 2. Do no harm 3. Do good 4. Fairness and 5. Truthfulness (for more information go to http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/Ethics-and-Dentistry).

Other things to consider when choosing a new dentist are if office is near your work or home, your schedules work together, there are options available for after-hours emergency care, you feel comfortable in the office, the office appears clean and orderly, the staff is friendly, etc. Now-a-days most of this information can be located online. If someone has had a bad experience, the internet will know about it. Most dental offices have professional WebPages that allow you to preview the office, fill out forms, and see pictures of the Doctor and other staff members - pre acquainting yourself with office before you even make an appointment. How do you choose the best dentist for you? Only you can answer what your personal expectations and needs are. For more resources or information on how you can find an ADA dentist in your area go to http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/find-a-dentist

Make a plan, pick a day and quit

Every November the American Cancer Society promotes the "Great American Smoke out." Its purpose is to encourage tobacco users to make a plan, pick a day and quit. We all know there are a million and five reasons to quit using tobacco. The education organizations like the American Cancer Society providers for free is almost overwhelming!

It is no secret that tobacco use affects the heart, lungs, throat, skin etc. - but did you know, according to the American Cancer Society, that smoking and chewing tobacco can increase your risk for bladder and cervical cancer as well? 5 years of quitting tobacco the risk for these cancers decreases to that of a non tobacco user. There is a multitude of immediate benefits of quitting as well, all of which are located on the American Cancer Society's webpage http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-benefits

From a dental standpoint, smoking and chewing tobacco causes staining of the teeth, bad breath, and gum disease (which can cause tooth loss) not to mention it can lead to mouth and/or throat cancer. Tobacco can even threaten current dental treatment you are undergoing or have already completed. The instability tobacco use causes to gum tissue can make you more at risk of losing restoratives on teeth. If you needed more reason than this, quit because you deserve a life without addiction. My office will always offer the incentive of "Quit smoking for 6 months and get free bleach trays." As this year comes to an end, make it your resolution to make a plan, pick a day and quit for good!

Understanding Dental Insurance

Now that the end of the year is approaching a lot of you are going through plan after plan your employer has selected for your medical, dental and vision plans. I hope this will help in understanding dental insurance better and will assist in helping you choose the correct plan for you. One of the largest misconceptions about dental insurance is that it works hand in hand with your medical insurance - it does not. Dental insurance is a completely different animal. The way I can best describe it to a patient is to think of it strictly as a discount - no more, no less. Dental coverage is decided by how much your employer pays into the plan, it has nothing to do with what your dentist would recognize as the best possible treatment. It is a contract between your employer and the insurance company and they are deciding what amounts your plan pays and what is covered. You as an employee have every right to let your employer know if your coverage is not adequate for your health needs.

So many of my patients will tend to select the treatment option that is covered by their dental insurance and not what is recommended. I feel I must point out that your health is the most important thing. As many of you know I tend to recommend to my patients what I would to my own mother or father to keep their mouths healthy; it is not my practice to overextend your wallets. Many dental offices, including mine, try to help take all the guess work out of dental insurance. We will call and get full breakdowns from each company to get an overview of what is covered and what is not. We will file all of your claims so you do not have to mess with the paperwork and follow up ultimately saving you a lot of time and money. Dental insurance is just one part of staying healthy. If you ever have any questions on how your insurance works - we will be more than happy to take the time to explain all of the ins and outs. We will help you understand what your insurance will cover and how to plan accordingly. Remember, the least expensive option is not always the best option. This goes for dental, medical or vision. Understand your insurance; it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to deciding what is best for you.

What you eat matters

Remember in the 1980's when fitness became all the rage? We tend to go in cycles of what we as a group consider popular or trendy. The fitness craze is back, and it is back with a vengeance. Everywhere I turn there are marathons, 5k's, fun runs, cross fit, hot yoga, Barre3 - I could go on and on. The cycle is the same with our diets; juicing, the raw food movement, the sudden popularity of kale and Brussels sprouts, 6 small meals a day, low carb, no carb, paleo diets. Regardless of trend the bottom line is always the same: What you eat matters. I fully embrace a healthy lifestyle, and as a dentist I am more aware of what I put into my mouth because I know the effects certain foods have on my oral health. I understand, and I want all of you to understand that your mouth is a huge component in your overall health.

Just to cover all the angles I will go ahead and state the obvious; sugar, sticky candy, lollipops, hard breads, and soda can be damaging to your teeth. Did you know that items such as fruits, certain coffee and tea, alcohol, sports drinks and flavored waters, nuts, even ice can lead to an unhealthy mouth? Fruits that are high in citric acid can cause erosion and irritate your gum tissue, causing sores. Coffee and tea, when you add all the good stuff can cause tooth decay; alcohol promotes dehydration and dry mouth which causes tooth decay as well. What you eat matters more than you know. While we all strive to live a little healthier - body, mind, soul and mouth, avoid excessive snacking. Not only is it dangerous to your waistline it is dangerous to your teeth as well - the more you snack the more food is collected in the little tiny crevices and remain hidden until your next brushing. When snacking, choose cheese, almonds, leafy greens, eggs, etc. Try to avoid sugar, even "sugar free" snacks. Most importantly, remember to brush and floss regularly - and come see me for your preventative needs.

Baby teeth, are they really THAT important????

There are a number of parents out there that think; they are just my kid's baby teeth, are they real THAT important???? I think we assume that since teeth aren't visible they aren't exposed to the same thing that adult teeth are. 20 baby teeth are already formed in the jaw at the time of birth and typically erupt before babies are 6 months old. When I see decay on baby teeth and I discuss those findings with Mom or Dad - you wouldn't believe how many of them say they would rather wait until their baby teeth fall out. Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. Teaching your children about good oral hygiene early can lead to healthy mouth habits that will preserve their smile for the rest of their lives. We are only given two sets of teeth - and once the permanent ones are gone, they are gone for good. The American Dental Association recommends that parents take children to the dentist no later than their first birthday and then at intervals recommended by their dentist.

Kid's mouths go through so much. First they have to deal with the awkward gaps that can form when teeth are missing. If a baby tooth comes out too soon, it can cause problems for the adult teeth trying to grow in. Drifting, spacing, crowding and crooked teeth can be a result of losing teeth before their time. That then results in a mouth full of metal to correct that. 2 years of metal - orthodontia has come such a long way but still. I went through orthodontics as an adult so I UNDERSTAND, trust me. As if it couldn't get any worse then come the wisdom teeth. Without regular dental care; cleanings, x-rays, sealants and fluoride - all preventative items - we are putting our kids at risk of making dentistry a horrible, dreaded thing.

I am not out to make braces or getting your wisdom teeth pulled a terrible thing, it really isn't. Ever heard the saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" That is the bottom line; Baby teeth, are they really THAT important???? Yes.

What is periodontal disease?

A lot of patients seem shocked when Teresa or Kara has to deliver the news that maybe their dental hygiene hasn't been the best over the year and as a result of that the patient has developed periodontal disease. In truth, periodontal disease is not uncommon. What is periodontal disease? We old-timers used to refer to it as gingivitis. While gingivitis is an early indicator of periodontal disease, it is in fact periodontal disease. How many of us have gums that bleed when we floss or brush, tender gums, a change in our bite or teeth that seems subtle enough to ignore until it is too late. The mouth is filled with bacteria, countless bacteria. Plaque will build up in your mouth and on your teeth and left untreated can rapidly produce toxins and enzymes that cause inflammation and irritation to your gums. This will in turn cause damage to the healthy tissue and bone that supports your tooth.

There are many determining factors you can detect to see if you may have beginning or even advanced stages of periodontal disease. Ask yourself these simple questions.

  1. Do I smoke or chew tobacco?
  2. Do I have a systemic disease, such as diabetes?
  3. Am I on any steroids, cancer therapy drugs or blood pressure medication?
  4. Am I pregnant or on hormones?
  5. Are my gums red, swollen, tender and bleeding?

Believe it or not, these are ALL contributing factors to periodontal disease - not just lack of brushing for 2 minutes twice per day and flossing regularly. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep up with your preventative dental care. The result of not properly treating even the mildest form of periodontal disease can be simple as a "deep cleaning" here in the office but can be as extreme as gum grafting surgery (yes, as in skin graft) or tooth loss. I am here to tell you this because although I know better as a dentist, sometimes it is MOST difficult for me to get my teeth cleaned. Put it to you this way, it is bad when you have to apologize to your hygienist for all the extra elbow grease she had to put into cleaning your teeth.